Friday the 13th Is 35 Today: Happy Birthday Jason

Poster from original Friday the 13th
Adrienne King shared a post on Facebook from Jon Bassuk, film aficionado extraordinaire, where he pointed out that 35 years ago on this date Friday the 13th premiered on cinema screens across the US. Ms. King played the lone survivor of that film, if that is a spoiler I apologize but really you should have seen the film by now, who has Jason come up from the lake to scare the bejesus out of her and the audience.

While many who are fans of the movie, “Kill her mommy, kiiilllll her!” saw the film in theaters surrounded by other patrons and a darkened room, many more watched the slasher film that killed off Kevin Bacon with an arrow through the throat, via the good old Drive-In.

A friend of mine watched the film at the “walk-in” cinema and came to work the next day telling me all about it. A true cinephile he had managed to, quite admirably, memorize huge chunks of dialogue as well as the “kill, kill, kill, ah, ah, ah” sound whenever the hockey mask-wearing killer appeared, or was about to appear.

Recounting the events he had witnessed on the movie screen, which in those days was huge as this was before the downsizing that came with multiplex cinemas, he hesitated when he got to the film’s climax. “I don’t want to tell you in case it spoils the ending for you,” he said. “That’s okay,” I replied, “by the time I see it I’ll have forgotten it anyway.”

He then went on to describe the peaceful scene in the lake. Adrienne King’s character, the virginal good girl Alice, has dispatched the maniacal machete-wielding mother of Jason (a wonderfully cast-against type Betsy Palmer who I remember watching on I’ve Got a Secret when I was a wee lad) and then pushed a rowboat, that she clambered into, out towards the middle of Crystal Lake.

Alice in Friday the 13th,
Alice, calm before the storm…

She drifts peacefully on the water trailing her hand along the lake’s surface with a contented look of relief on her face. Suddenly, and here we’ll go into my friend’s brilliant description: “This bald kid who’s all rotting and shit leaps up out of the water behind the boat and and grabs her. He is the ugliest little f***er you ever saw and he drags her kicking and screaming out of the rowboat and into the lake. Man! I screamed like a little girl!”

We both laughed at the idea of this ugly little sucker grabbing the heroine and his screaming like a girl. I was right about the amount of time it took me to see Friday the 13th but I was wrong about forgetting the ending. When the film finally got around to the Drive-In, where I saw it, I still remembered that ending, although I had forgotten how good old Kevin Bacon bought it.

So there I sat at the 71 Drive-In with a giant bag of Doritos and a huge Dr. Pepper. I’d just finished snorting double streams of fizzy soda out of my nose at Betsy Palmer’s “kill her mommy” line (that line never fails to send me into gales of laughter) and was mopping up the mess from the front of my shirt. I had enough time to wait patiently for the bald kid to pop up like a wet and terrible Jack-in-the-box which was, my friend assured me, the final act.

I sat there for what seemed like ages and had just decided that the dead Jason Voorhies was not going to jump up and that my good friend had been telling porkies when, BOOM! The ugly bald and rotting sucker shot up from behind the boat amid a gush of lake water, that you just knew smelled like rotting fish and rotting Jason, and I swear that not only did I scream like a “little girl” but I nearly knocked myself out on the roof of the car.

Friday the 13th was the film that set the bar for all the slasher films that followed. Despite having enough sequels to sink Alice’s rowboat, Jason never got old and Betsy Palmer went down in history as the first killer in one of the longest running horror franchises in cinema history. It also had what I consider one of the best “kill scenes” ever set up by the legendary Tom Savini who “shoved” an arrow through Kevin Bacon’s throat.

Happy 35th birthday to Friday the 13th and happy birthday Jason.

9 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Hell on Wheels: Bleeding Kansas (Recap and Review)

Hell on Wheels: Bleeding Kansas (Recap and Review)

When Hell on Wheels‘ previous episode ended Sidney Snow was laying in the street having been shot by Ruth and as this week’s episode, Bleeding Kansas opens, Snow is still alive and Cullen must rush to save the homicidal lawman to keep the woman from becoming a murderer. Bohannan packs Snow’s wounds with coffee grounds and runs to get Durant who initially refuses until he realizes that if Sidney dies Ruth will hang. Despite his reluctance “Doc” rushes to the Hotel where Snow lies wounded.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) Penultimate Project Alice?

Well, writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has done it again. He has managed to surpass every other film in the Resident Evil franchise. With what appears to be the run up to Resident Evil 6 (projected for 2014) he and his partner Milla Jovovich as Alice have proven that science fiction escapism is still fun and may possibly end after “Resi Evil 6” hits our screens.

When Resident Evil premiered in 2002 it was met with mixed reactions. Quite a few fans of the game disliked the film and pretty much disowned it. But what Anderson did then (and is still doing) was to tap into the escapist nature of the game and recreate the verse in a parallel line that used the game as a blueprint but did not follow the game’s plotline religiously.

The introduction of Milla as Alice in the first film allowed us to see this new character as a blend of the different “heroes” of the game verse. With the information that she had been exposed to the T-virus and that her cells had merged and mutated with it; the film gave us a heroine that would continue to adapt as each film came out.

And adapt she certainly has. In the first film, Alice has lost her memory as a result of exposure to a nerve gas. She finds out that she has certain “capabilities” that are obviously second nature to her, memory or not. She turns out to be pretty “kick-ass” and this trend carries on through each film.

Alice gun’s blazing at the beginning of the film.

In the fourth film, arch-villain Wesker (head of the Umbrella Corporation) takes away her “powers” and she is left to continue without her added strength and computer hacking ability. Despite having her “mojo” taken away from her, Alice is still a strong and capable protagonist able to face Umbrella and a multitude of virus infected zombies.

The beginning of Retribution features a slow motion “rewind” of events that take place after the end of the fourth film in the franchise (Resident Evil: Afterlife) when the events reach the “actual” end of the fourth film and the opening credits have finished we see Alice blown off the ship  into the ocean. Fade to black.

When Alice awakes, she is married to Todd/Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr ) and they have a hearing impaired daughter, Becky (Aryana Engineer) it is all happy families until a zombie attacks Todd. Becky and Alice flee. They bump into a young woman, Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez) who tells the two to get in her car. They drive off and the car is hit by a cement truck. Both Alice and Becky escape. Alice tells Becky to hide and she gets attacked by zombie Todd.

Alice wakes up in an Umbrella holding cell and is being interrogated by Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). A computer hacker causes the mainframe to shut down and Alice escapes.

Watching this film was like attending a Resident Evil family reunion. Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Salmon, Boris Kodjoe, Sienna Guillory, and Shawn Roberts (as the Wesker replacement from Resi Evil Afterlife) all show up for a real mind-blowing experience. The addition of game regulars Leon Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Ada Wong (Bingbing Li) added to the fun. Even a few of the franchise’s secondary characters make a reappearance.

A quick word about Bingbing Li: I first saw the Hong Kong actress in the 2008 film The Forbidden Kingdom. The casting God’s must have realized even then that she was perfect to play Ada Wong. No one could have managed to look so much like the game character let alone bring her so brilliantly to life.

Ada Wong aka Bingbing Li. She could have been born to play Ada.

While I’m ladling out praise, I have to say that Johann Urb was very, very good as Leon and Michelle Rodriguez played two completely different versions of herself. Rodriguez played her stereotypical badass and a peace-loving non-violent gun protester. Of course Milla Jovovich continues to knock it out of the park as Alice, growing in different ways with each film.

The setting (or settings) of the film was epic in design and proportion. The CGI was faultless and the wire work seamless. The choreography for the action and fight scenes was impressive, none more so than the final fight at the end of the film. That fight alone was worth the price of admission and so worth waiting for.

The added touch of having old (and dead) characters reappear was spot-on and gave a new dimension to the film. Sadly I never got to see the film in 3D at the cinema, but looking at it in glorious Blu-ray 2D still gave an idea of how it must have looked. I can only hope that the film gets a re-release in the near future or that I suddenly become rich enough to buy all the 3D gear for my house.

With the ending of this film so clearly making way for the sixth in the series you have to ask if that will be the last one. I am sure that they could keep making these films until Alice starts kicking zombie butt from her wheelchair but, logically, I think ‘6’ will be that last. Here’s hoping that the next film is as good as this one was.

In a 5 star rating system, I’d have to give Resident Evil: Retribution a 6 for full-scale, Capcom style escapism. It is definitely a film to own; even more so if you had the cash to have all the 3D gear on hand.

Unmissable.

Milla teaching Michelle Rodriquez how to shoot. Priceless.

Alice Sweet Alice aka Communion (1976): Bi-Centennial Bitchiness

The American Bicentennial saw a lot of celebrations dealing with the USA‘s 200th birthday. It also saw the release of one of the best horror films ever made. Some may argue the point, but Alice Sweet Alice continually makes the top ten of any “Scary Movies” list.

The film is  remembered for being one of the last films that ‘tragic songstress’ Lillian Roth would appear in. It also marked the screen debut of Brooke Shields. Although not much of a debut (she gets killed off in the first reel), it was enough to get her name put up higher and considerably bigger in the credits and re-released twice more after she gained notoriety in the film Pretty Baby.

The film was initially released in 1976 under the title of Communion. It was re-released in 1978 after Shields starred as the child bride in Pretty Baby and was released once more in 1981 under the title of Holy Terror. Interestingly, a book tie-in had been done with the film’s original release and it was never re-titled, despite the film having several names.

Written and directed by Alfred Soles, Communion is a gritty film with an almost suffocating religious theme. Dealing with a young girls murder before her first communion and an old widow’s  ‘Fatal Attraction‘ with the young Priest she cleans and cooks for. It also deals with a dysfunctional Catholic family, ‘deadly’ sibling rivalry, paedophilia,  pre-marital sex and murder.

The film is set in Patterson, New Jersey, where it was shot entirely on location. It actually had it’s premier there under the original name of Communion. *As a side note, the film’s title was altered because the ‘new’ distributors of the film (Allied Artists) demanded the name change because they thought the film’s current title would keep the audience away in droves because it sounded like a ‘religious’ movie.

The single parent Spages family is  visiting their parish priest Father Tom in preparation for Karen’s (Brooke Shields) first communion. Older sister Alice (Paula Spaulding also in her film debut, but unlike Brooke, she would only act in one other film) is jealous of the attention that Karen is getting. When Father Tom gives Karen a crucifix necklace Alice acts up and puts on a scary ‘see-through’ mask and ends up frightening the Priest’s housekeeper, Mrs. Tredoni (Mildred Clinton).

Later Alice lures Karen into a deserted warehouse and scares the crap out of her. She then ‘kidnaps’ her sister’s doll with the threat that if she tells their mother Catherine ( Linda Miller), she’ll never see the doll again. Just when it looks like everything is going smoothly, Karen is viscously murdered in the church and  her body set on fire.

Alice who is acting strangely, is the immediate suspect and ends up in a institution for observation. Before she gets sent off, she terrorizes her paedophile neighbour who tries to ‘touch her up’.

As body count for a ‘slasher’ type horror film goes, Alice Sweet Alice is pretty low. A grand total of four folks have the misfortune to bump into the murderous person in the yellow raincoat and ‘see-through’ mask. This rain coated fiend loves big knives and likes to make sure that her victims get the point.

When the murderer is ‘un-masked’, (this isn’t as trite as it sounds, the translucent mask really does ‘mask’ the face of the murderer) it’s a bit of a surprise. It’s also creepy as hell.

If you can get past the film’s 1960’s setting and the fact that it looks like it was made in New Jersey, you’ll be able to see why this film has such an iconic standing in the horror field. It’s worth a look just to see Brooke Shields before Pretty Baby and Blue Lagoon. But remember, look quick! The kid ain’t in the picture long.